How To Sublimate On Cotton

What you want to know is why is it not possible to sublimate designs on cotton tees? And how to sublimate on cotton? 

Cotton t-shirts are preferred by most people. As t-shirts made of cotton are more comfortable than polyester ones. But for t-shirts specifically, you cannot dye 100 percent natural cotton fabric.  

Dye-sublimation printing is known for its vivid colors. Furthermore, it is the fastest and easiest way to transfer colorful designs without learning to screenprint. In order to do sublimation, you always need special materials. It is inadvisable to sublimate any regular item, such as a mug or t-shirt The design will fade and erode quickly. 

Well, indeed, Cotton cannot be sublimated directly as it is a natural fiber. Moreover, Lighter colors tend to transfer better, whereas darker colors don’t. Here I’ll teach you the process of sublimating a 100 % natural cotton fabric, with a magic trick to make it happen. So stay with me till the end.

How Does Sublimation Dye Work?

It is crucial to understand how dye-sublimation works before proceeding further into the process of sublimating cotton. In simple words, Sublimation is a process of transferring prints or designs onto a variety of materials. In sublimation printing, the ink or the dye converts into a gas form upon heating. You can either use dye sublimation or heat transfer to do the job.

We have a thread about the differences between these techniques. If you’re interested, visit there What is Sublimation Printing? and How Does it Work?

During the heating process fabrics such as cotton, nylon, etc, cannot absorb the ink. On heating, polyester is the only substrate that can allow the ink to adhere and create beautiful, long-lasting, and vibrant colors. This is the only reason flags, banners, and graphic t-shirts are made of polyester.

Why is it easy to sublimate Polyester Vs Cotton?


Magic Trick For Sublimating A Cotton Fabric :

To figure out how to sublimate cotton fabric, I did a great deal of research and settled on Sublimation Coating Spray. In my experiments, I discovered how easy it is to sublimate cotton using coating spray.

A sublimation coating spray can be used on any fabric, but specifically on 100% cotton. During my experiments, it worked like a charm. Using this spray was a breeze. Because it dried so fast, I did not have to wait very long for it to dry. All ingredients are in one compound, so I did not have to mix anything beforehand. I just directly sprayed it onto the fabric. The fabric is protected by this coating, preventing abrasion, scratching, rubbing, and ink smudging. It provides such a beautiful glossy sheen, and the colors emerged so vibrantly as well.

How to sublimate on cotton: Step-by-Step Process

Step 1: The first thing you need to do is press the cotton or fabric you want to sublimate for a few seconds using a heat press. Make sure it is wrinkle-free before you begin.

Step 2: Prepare your design and print it with a sublimation printer on sublimation paper. Afterward, cut it out.

Step 3: Then simply apply the spray to the fabric and let it dry. It can either be allowed to dry naturally or pressed again using a household iron or heat press machine. Make sure that no more moisture remains on the fabric.

Step 4: Use heat-resistant tape to set the design on the fabric and press it again (from medium to high pressure) until it transfers completely to the fabric.

Step 5: Finally, gently remove the tape and paper. Your design is now ready to wear.

There may be a slight scratchy feeling on the surface, but it will disappear after one wash.


  • You should only use sublimation ink. Avoid using pigmented or dyed ink
  • Sublimation ink works best on sublimation papers. Avoid using regular paper for printing.
  • Depending on your equipment, set the temperature appropriately.
  • Dark-colored fabric is not recommended.

Final Words: 

In the end, I hope that this article has shed some light on how to sublimate cotton t-shirts, and you are now able to sublimate your own cotton tees, hoodies, mittens, and much more. If you still have any queries and questions or you want to share your experience with us feel free to contact us!

Happy sublimating!

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